· The World
· · People
Steve at NeXT
· Late in 1989 I opened my email one morning and there was one from firstname.lastname@example.org saying “come see us.” So I went and spent the day and failed to make a sale, but so did Mr. Jobs ... [20 comments]
How To Die
· So, Derek’s gone. I was finding it a little hard to maintain, this morning. I’d known him for a while; we weren’t close but, like a whole lot of other people around geekdom and Vancouver, I’d been drawn in tighter and tighter as he wrote his way through mortal illness, always facing forward and keeping the story flowing even when everyone knew how, and recently when, it would end ... [2 comments]
Late Summer Tech Tab Sweep
· Some of these puppies have been keeping a browser tab open since April. No theme; ranging on the geekiness scale from extreme to mostly-sociology ... [2 comments]
Into the Dark
· I read Tuesday’s story of the joint suicide of Joan and Edward Downes. I’m sure this story touched many hearts, whatever we think of the ethical issues. Early this morning I was driving the kids around and they played a tune I’d never heard called I’ll Follow You Into the Dark. It’s a lovely song — at once melodious, witty, and sad — and it comes from exactly the same place as the story of the Downes’ death. This week there’s an extra chance it’ll tug at your heart as it did mine ... [8 comments]
Erik Naggum, R.I.P.
· Erik was a flamer’s flamer, back in the golden days of Usenet. He was reflexively averse to the mainstream; a proponent of SGML before descriptive markup was fashionable, he peeled away from the community when XML hit the big time, vanishing in a puff of pungent sulfurous smoke. I think he’s left an important lesson behind him ... [9 comments]
· This last Friday and Saturday I spent in the company of 250 or so people who self-define as contributors to the Net, at Northern Voice 2009. On the one hand, it’s like being in a warm bath; everyone here thinks it’s normal to want to tell your story to the world, usually on more than one channel. On the other, everyone goes around talking about “Social Media”; the clock is totally ticking on the time when you can do that unironically. Having said that, our traditional media are looking pathetically clapped-out and we are sure as hell going to need something to fill the gaps. With pictures ... [1 comment]
Stray Sunbeam: Lauren Wood
· Lauren is a lot of things: An XML wonk, a standards-process veteran with a track record of success, a conference organizer, a blogger, and a WordPress hacker. For my money her biggest talent is project management: She’s technical, has a good bullshit filter, and is completely relentless (in the most polite and friendly way imaginable) in extracting units of useful progress from gaggles of geeks, even when they’re distributed across multiple continents ...
Stray Sunbeam: Gerald Beuchelt
· Gerry is a geek’s geek. He’s simultaneously a Free Software enthusiast and a first-rate Windows hacker, which can be a useful combination. Speaking of useful combinations, how about German and US passports; Gerry’s about to become an American ...
· This friend of mine is looking for a job, and since he’s got a fairly special skillset I thought it’d be worth highlighting him here. He’s a long-time veteran of security technology (starting in the British military) and more recently a really accomplished standards warrior. I got to watch John work in the context of the recent OOXML process, including the BRM in Geneva, where he was one of the most effective operators. He knows ISO process and politics comprehensively. Seems to me that at this point in history the combination of security and standards expertise ought to be real interesting to someone out there. If that might be you, contact me by email and I’ll put you in touch. [1 comment]
· Ouch. Greg, one of the nicest people in the Open Source community, and a major contributor both of code and of unglamorous-but-necessary organizational work, was mugged in Palo Alto; he was on crutches at the time. [Street crime in Palo Alto? Who knew?] Anyhow, it’s time for the community to give a little back. Join in, please.
· One of those great summer days. Baseball, happy boys, good food, and sunlit flowers, all among friends ... [1 comment]
· Gosh, there seem to be a lot of drugs in the news these days. There’s a study out associating cannabis and mental illness. Meanwhile, drugs destroyed the Tour de France, are one of the main obstacles to peace in Afghanistan, and my home town of Vancouver is itself an interesting little narcotics lab (for what it’s worth, I think the 2003 piece linked there is one of the best things I ever wrote on this blog) ... [23 comments]
· On the seventh of July this year, we participated in the global lucky-number wedding boom by attending Gerhild and Reinhard’s wedding in Berlin. Here are some photos, which are only of interest if you like weddings or modern Lutheran ecclesiastical architecture ... [1 comment]
Tab Sweep—The World
· I guess these occasional link blasts are an integral part of Web culture. Warning: one of these is terribly sad ... [1 comment]
· I’m quoting my old friend and colleague Len Bullard (featured in this space here and especially here), who got a nasty diagnosis and was moved to eloquence: Diagnosis and The Secret of the Christ. Best of luck, Len, and keep writing. [1 comment]
Tab Sweep (Non-Tech)
· With notes this week on hippies, raconteurs, the M8 controversy, and a dead Russian ... [10 comments]
Interop Impressions and Pix
· We worked from noon till six Monday, and from 8:30 till the middle of Tuesday; a little over twenty people in the room. I got the Ape talking to a few and failed with a couple of others, but in those cases the problems were implementation glitches, not the protocol. Surprises? I saw a couple of servers that didn’t accept Atom entries, just various kinds of media objects. OK, I guess. Pleasant surprises: getting pretty well complete interoperation with (on almost the first try) Nikunj Mehta’s code and (after a bit of work) Kevin Beyer’s and James Snell’s. I’m running a few shots of the event just because I like taking pictures of people. I’ll write another piece drawing some technical conclusions ... [1 comment]
How Big is the Club?
· We who read (and write) blogs and play with the latest Internet Trinkets (and build them) have been called an echo chamber, a hall of mirrors, a teeny geeky minority whose audience is itself. Let me explore this notion a bit using Twitter ... [24 comments]
· This is about I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter; my discussion is picky and pedantic and probably far too long for any but his devotees; but then, their number is many ... [9 comments]
· The recent Internet Nastiness experienced by Kathy Sierra has started a discussion about aggression in general; is it ever OK to go on the attack, or should we try to adopt a mutual non-aggression treaty covering the whole blogosphere? On reflection, I think that, yes, it’s OK to go negative, but only if you mean it and are doing it seriously, and only if you’re prepared to deal with the consequences. It may be the case that some legislative tinkering is required to make accountability work better. [Update: Hani responds, and I’ve been Biled.] ... [30 comments]
· Wow, he’s working here, as of today. This was cooked on the extra double secret hush-hush; congrats to those involved on the leakage control ... [3 comments]
· This is the one-day Unconference that happens the day before Northern Voice. Unfortunately I missed Northern Voice, due to a combination of a child’s soccer game and a vicious one-day ailment of some sort that knocked me completely on my butt for 24 hours. Anyhow, Moose Camp was 100% excellent. It irritates me that I went through the first forty-something years of my life without having had the Unconference experience ... [5 comments]
· James has been appointed to the Order of Canada, and about bloody time. Not only is this well-deserved, but as far as I know, it’s the first time that a computer technologist has made it in. I have nothing against the dancers and insurance executives and philanthropists and hockey players currently inhabiting the Order, but the construction of the future is in some large part in the hands of the engineers; and this needs better recognition.
· Ladies and gentlemen: in this corner, in the Mavericks colors, Mark Cuban! And in the other corner, in the geek threads, Bram Cohen! Both fighters score, but this judge gives the first round to Bram. (And I think to myself: what a wonderful world.) [1 comment]
· What with Christmas and a baby in the family, there’ve been a lot of children on my mind. To a child, this is an axiom: The amount of love is constant, but the amount of candy is variable. It explains a lot. Margaret Atwood, as a young woman, wrote a short story about children making poison, and underlined its conclusion (just as important as mine about candy, but I won’t summarize, go read it, Making Poison) by saying “... and if you don’t understand that, you’ll never understand anything.” I’ve never had the courage to write anything that strong (and I wonder if, a few decades older, she’d be able to), but I feel that way about lots of things, mostly computing-related ... [4 comments]
· Harrumph, I’ve been tagged. I’m not sure I approve of this glorified-chain-letter stuff, but who can resist a chance to blather on about themselves? So, here are five not-widely-known things ... [4 comments]
· From David Hollister, You Da Man! is a surprising little essay which ranges from Hot Tuna to gritty storage-driver bug-chasing, and is about, well, life.
· I don’t think many this side of the Pacific will notice, but I’d like to take a moment to note with sorrow the sudden death of Kikuta Masahiro, an independent thinker and independent businessman, founder and CEO of Synergy Incubate, a genial guest and gracious host. We ate and drank well and laughed lots together, both sides of the Pacific; my sympathy goes out to Mrs. Kikuta Yasuyo. The world in general and Japan in particular could use more like them.
Craig Cline, R.I.P.
· So sad to hear that Craig died. (He doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry, someone who knew him better than I should make one.) I owe Craig a lot; I was one of the people who came to the Web from a mostly-publishing-tech background, and liked it the moment I saw it. It may sound weird now, but a lot of publishing people hated it and fought it, because it didn’t do WYSIWYG and you couldn’t exercise fine control over font leading and image bleeds and so on. Craig put me on stage at the Seybold conference time after time—it was the centre of the publishing-tech world then—to tell people that this thing was OK, that they could still be designers, they just had to live with losing control over size and shape, that typography and color and white space still mattered. I don’t know, frankly, if it did the audiences any good, but the conversations I had there sure helped me. Craig was a good man.
· I have a bunch of notes and thoughts scattered round my computer and brain and I was going to do a big round-up post, but who knows, something might turn out to be a conversation-starter, so I guess I’ll split ’em all up to keep things orderly. Before I get going on that, I just want to say “Thanks!” to the O’Reilly people for putting on this event. What with the new baby I could only stay for about 48 hours, but it felt like a 48-hour-long warm bath for the soul. Not only am I among my tribe, but the people are mostly friendly and mostly witty and quite a few of them are stylish in offbeat and interesting ways, and then a whole bunch of them have become friends over the years. The talks weren’t, on average, as good as the crowd, on average, but then some of them were excellent. Here’s a question: should OSCON become partly an UnConference or Camp or something? I’ve been to some of those and I really like them, but on the other hand, quite a few of the OSCON sessions amount to someone who Really Knows His-or-Her Shit standing on stage laying out what the next few steps are in some deeply important piece of the computing ecosystem. I mean, welcoming grass-roots voices is good, but if you want to know where Python is going, you need to listen to Guido, and if you want the bleeding edge on the Atom Protocol, along with a command-line demo, I’m your guy. Which is to say, information transfer from obsessives is a valid sub-function of tribal gatherings. Having said that, during this kind of session, the dialogue with the audience is organic and spontaneous and the questions are typically so good that there’s really no “authority” relationship between the person with at the front of the room with the microphone and a person in one of the chairs facing them. Still, I think OSCON would benefit from turning one of its days—or even half—into an UnConference. Stand by for more OSCON-driven fragments. [Update: Here’s a contrarian voice. I thought the paper selection was good, but he raises a troubling question: If I hadn’t already known dozens and dozens of attendees, how would I have gone about meeting them?]
Real Social Networks
· It’s like this: John is the guy who’s building the new room for the new kid; he was recommended by Diane, who’s a friend who used to work with Lauren and got me to do the XBRL keynote and lives ten blocks west, near the Pilates studio where we work out and Lauren swaps computer maintenance for private consultations, and it turns out that John’s stepson Joe was in our kid’s kindergarten class and we already knew him; Joe and John and Rudy live just down the street from Brennan, who was also in the kindergarten class and whose mom gives our kid piano lessons. We got in Albin to do the electrical work, he’s worked on the house before and knows the ropes; I met Albin through my old friend Glen, I rent an office from Glen over a clothing boutique he runs as a sideline, he uses my pictures on the covers of his neutraceuticals-company catalog and he brought Albin in to run the wires for the DSL at the store/office. Matt, who used to work for me and Glen at a former business we were in, set up the DSL at the store, and he helps us do the firewalls on the Debian box in our basement, and he also hosts ongoing on a server he runs for his political party, and he just wrote me asking to pitch in against some DMCA-like legislation looming foully over the Canadian horizon, and I helped Sun sell some Ultras to the lab where Matt works at a local university, and then helped straighten things up when manufacturing screwed up and sent the wrong CD with the computers. Turns out John is going to be doing some work for Tracy three doors down, whose boy and ours play all the time and sleep over and so on; but Tracy met John not through us but via Nick’s mom; Nick was also in that kindergarten class and played soccer with our kid on the team that I co-coached with Phil, who does secret stuff for Apple and used to do the XML conference proceedings for Lauren and sits on the ECMA committee trying to put lipstick on the Microsoft Office XML pig. Anyhow, John and Albin hit it off and they’ll probably call each other in for carpentry and electrical work in future. Why do we need computers to help us with this?
Underground, Invitation, Le kick and rush
· I wonder if there’s any real benefit, when someone whom I’ve already highlighted writes something exceptionally good, in pointing to them again and saying “read this!” But sometimes you can’t not do it. Item: my brother Rob on the joy of underground high explosives. Item: Alex Waterhouse-Hayward on Ana Victoria (oh, my). For my last link you’ll have to be able to read a language somewhat but not entirely unlike French; Mondial 2006 is the World Cup 2006 blog from Libération ; its torrent of high-velocity low-rent French baffles me in places, and it doesn’t help that I’m not 100% au fait with les Bleus, but you have to like pieces like Panini, beer & Co.
Bad Days for Rob
· Robert Scoble I mean, who’s going through tough stuff (the picture here is heartbreaking). A happy ending doesn’t look very likely, but let’s hope everyone’s pain and suffering are as small as they can be. One thing Rob wrote brought me to a full stop and I had to read it again to be sure he’d really said that: “If I have a chance to look at a screen and comprehend what it says, keep me alive. Otherwise please don't perform heroic measures to keep me alive.” I don’t know if I’d go that far; but it’s thought-provoking.
· I agreed to speak at Linuxfest Northwest and so drove down to Bellingham and back today. It’s about an hour, except for this Saturday morning it seemed like every other Canadian had that U.S. urge so I sat for 90 minutes in a line of cars at the border. Anyhow, the event was terrific. Simon Phipps has written eloquently of marketing values leeching the life out of some Linux events; but not this one ...
Jon and the Minotaur
· Jon Bosak (father of XML, terrific photographer, good person, etc.) was in Vancouver for some meetings having to do with UBL (and be warned, there’s going to be some more UBL tub-thumping around here), and encountered a monster ...
ETech — Mark Pilgrim
· Hey, I finally got to meet Mark Pilgrim, with whom I’ve had a lengthy and occasionally vexed online relationship. This fragment is mostly just an excuse to post a picture ...
· Last week I wrote love your children, pointing to a terribly sad story. Daniel, the father of the little girl who died, has been writing extraordinary, gut-wrenching stuff since then, but not without splashes of sunshine. I’ve been reading it and meaning to write here again saying “Read this!” and then today Daniel reached out of the computer and touched me and I just lost it for a while there this afternoon. I may be emotionally wrecked but I can’t help thinking: TV can’t do this. Newspapers can’t do this. Magazines can’t do this. This is sorrow and grace shared with the world: doesn’t matter who reads it, because what matters is that he wrote it. Elena’s short story may well live, insofar as stories do, forever.
Love Your Children
· Because, like Elena, they might be gone tomorrow. Two nights ago when I put our little guy (the same age) to bed, he was being difficult and I was rushed so I bypassed the hug-and-kiss. No longer. It sounds like Elena and her parents didn’t bypass many. I know Elena’s dad. I can’t begin to imagine what their world’s like just now, but a whole lot of us are feeling pretty empty.
· There’s a kids’ room here, with lots of kids having a good time. It’s low-pressure, nobody pitching me their start-up in the hallway ...
· Our third annual “Lauren and Tim’s New Year’s Day Social” is history. Forty or so people, plus as many as nine simultaneous kids, went through some pretty good champagne, juices, gazpacho, lentil soup, dips, and so on, and did a whole lot of talking. Marlowe, who’s now six months old, astounded us by sticking around and chilling with the crowd, apparently enjoying the buzz. Thanks all for coming, and for those who brought bottles of wine and other bonuses, that’s really totally unnecessary but thanks anyhow. I enclose a photo of the aftermath ...
· I know it’s a little early, but I’ve got the feeling at the moment, courtesy of a piece by Rob entitled Wonderful.
· That would be Hiawatha Bray, who’s been writing about computers and software in the Boston Globe for years and years, as long as I’ve been in the business. At least one conspiracy theorist pointed out that Hiawatha and I had never been seen in the same place at the same time; maybe there’s just one of us? Well, now we have been ...
· This week I paid a visit to the University of Guelph, from which I graduated over twenty years ago. They’re fine people and it’s a fine school, and I’ll have more to say about that, but I learned some some shocking numbers. First, of Guelph’s 18,000-or-so students, around 70% are female. At the Veterinary College, it’s around 90%. And in this year’s graduating class of 50 Computer Science students, 4 are female. The visual effect is not subtle: everywhere you look there are swarms of bright, healthy, eager-looking young women. And in the CS building, the usual geekboys. Guelph’s population, they tell me, is not untypical for modern universities. What does this mean, a couple of decades from now?
· Britt Blaser is posting news of a remarkable offer from Pfizer; emergency, free prescription filling for all their products for Katrina survivors. Good on ya Pfizer, and since I haven’t seen this in the mainstream news, other bloggers might want to pass the word on. [Update: Huw Gilbert of Pfizer adds: “Also, it is important to note that free medicines are available to all those without prescription drug coverage (regardless of general health insurance status)”.]
People in Tokyo
· Last Thursday and Friday I had a bunch of meetings with people in Tokyo and Chiba and thus there are stories and pictures ...
· Here’s a terrific article, outsourced from The Atlantic, on Norman Borlaug, who, they say, has probably saved more human lives than anyone in history. He is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and gave my Dad a job in 1978. The article discusses (but not in much depth) and derides some of the Green opposition to Borlaug’s intensive-agriculture practices. While that opposition has perhaps on occasion been misguided, its existence was necessary. As I saw in my Dad’s thinking, the community of Agricultural scientists at one point had developed a massive environmental blind spot, and tended to measure success only in terms of yield per hectare. This has produced, along with pretty severe environmental damage, anomalies such as the tasteless pink tomatoes and tasteless shiny apples the supermarkets try to sell you. Having said that, it’s obvious that history will judge Norman Borlaug and his cohort of agronomists pretty favorably; you really can’t argue with saving the lives of a billion or so people.
Pictures of Lauren
· She needed some photos for professional reasons, so I took a bunch and then, while fiddling around with PhotoShop, discovered that you can have some serious fun in the glamorizing line. Herewith Lauren Wood, Ph.D. with plumblossoms, twice ...
· So, Danese Cooper is moving on. There are lots of places you can go read about how Danese is smart and well-connected and energetic and generally a good person (it’s all true) so I don’t need to pile on. But I have to admit that there’s something preoccupying me: What the dickens is Intel cooking up?
· There just haven’t been that many books in the history of the world that can make you laugh out loud, over and over, and anybody who writes one is OK by me, and Hunter S. Thompson did. Plus, he changed what the word “journalism” means, plus he helped advance the general understanding of the U.S. electoral process. But maybe those things are less important than a couple hundred pages of perfect comedy. The bloggers are waxing graceful in eulogy; I like Doc’s take. HST was a very strong man, but the fact is that decadence in general, and cocaine in particular, take things away that usually don’t come back. [Update: Gunnar Peterson wrote me about this unusual reflection on HST, by his son.]
· Hey, Eve’s here! I expect great things. What she doesn’t highlight in her basic bio is that she helped invent XML, and has great hair, and is funny. Oh, and dig her URL. Now she’s a WordPress geek too; seems to be a growing tribe.
Gazpacho and Champagne
· Last year, to celebrate my unemployment, Lauren and I had a New Year’s Day afternoon social, and it was a lot of fun, so we did it again this year, and I think we’ll go on doing it. The refreshments are those listed above, plus hot lentil soup and cheeses and dips, and we didn’t offer desserts but a few of the guests turned up with ’em and they got snaffled, so I guess we should in future. As for champagne, we find that the Mumm Cordon Rouge hits a good price-performance point. The gazpacho (improvised by Lauren) was just stupendous, got raves all around. The kids get sent upstairs where there are lots of toys and intermittent supervision. We had one injury—somehow they managed to pull down a curtain and the rod hit little Joe on the head, nothing serious but it was kind of scary when he came downstairs with bright red blood running down the side of his neck. Oh, and someone broke the antenna off the toy-racecar remote, and Phil Mansfield disassembled it on the spot and jacked in a new antenna made out of the wire off a champagne cork, it worked fine, is that stylish or what? The crowd included VCs, geeks, businesspeople, neighbours, parents of the kid’s playmates, and miscellaneous old friends. The thirty or forty people who dropped by included only one other blogger, as far as I know, and very few people who read ongoing; an indication, were any needed, that this public-voice thing is in its early days. Plus, Adam dropped off a mix disk labeled “CTI/Kudu (& Others)” which was just ultrasuede, luscious Boogie Nights Seventies organ funk. Same time next year.
Best o’ the Season
· A Prairie Christmas, with illustrated remarks on snow, cows, and why the Internet is such a dangerous place ...
See Ya in 2004?
· The kid and I went for a walk and had pizza this morning with a fellow named “Ranger Tim”; the name will be familiar to Dervala’s aficionados. See, these names you read in blogs are actual real people! It was pleasant. In that spirit, here’s where I’ll be for the rest of the year; If I’m going to be in your neighborhood, consider getting in touch. For most of the week of Nov. 15th I’m in DC at the XML 2004 conference, featuring the Atom Hackathon. The 22nd and 23rd I’ll be in the Bay Area for some meetings, and once again December 6-8. December 15th I’ll be in Antwerp, Belgium, for Javapolis, which should be good fun; I assume I’ll be in Europe a day or two either side of that.
· The names in my kid’s kindergarten class: Brennan, Edinah-Rose, Fionnuala, Gabriella, Isaiah, Isaiah, Jacob, Joseph, Hennessy, Michaela, Nicolas, Noah, Patrick, Ronan, Sam, Sean, Sophie, Sophie. That’s poetry of a kind, written in the language of parents’ dreams. Sitting down together to start the day, still unsmudged for a few quiet minutes, words can’t describe their beauty. Think you might be able to match ethnic groups with names? Forget it.
Foo Camp 2004
· Major thanks to Tim O’Reilly, Sara Winge, and the rest of the O’Reillians for doing this another year. They’re doing the community and the world a major favor and if they weren’t so smart I’d worry there won’t be enough coming back from the community to make it worth their while. Last year’s notes here, here, and especially here apply, but one or two more things are worth saying ...
What Adam Said
· A month or two ago, I got a call out of the blue from some guy I never heard at a recruiting shop saying “I’m looking for a reference on Adam Bosworth.” I’m afraid I gave the guy a hard time, first I took him for a prankster and then I ranted at him along the lines of “You’re talking about probably one of top twenty software people in the world, have you never heard of Quattro Pro and Microsoft Access and IE 4? What are you talking to me for?” To his credit, the guy was patient and explained that this was Google and Google is different. So I told him about my exposure to Adam over the years and all the things it’s painfully obvious that he’s good at, and I’m sure the other people they called did too, and now he’s at Google. But what I really wanted to say today is, go read his latest piece, he says in one paragraph what I’ve been raving about for months in the area of Web Services: “The really useful things turn out to be the simplest ones.” How many times do we have to re-learn this lesson? Anyhow, there’s more, and it’s all good.
Len Is In The House
· Drop whatever you’re doing and go check out Life Among The Mammals by the one and only Len Bullard, who has been quoted in this space a few times. The amount of material is still small enough that you can read the whole thing to get caught up, and you’ll probably enjoy doing that. (As I write the top two posts are political, if that’s not your flavor skip ’em to get to the other good stuff.)
Good News, Bad News
· Sigh; I’ve had multiple journalists on the phone, wanting to find out “what’s really going on” with the IETF, the W3C, and Atom. They’re just looking for a good story (good along the lines of if it bleeds, it leads) and I’m doing my best not to give them that kind. I gather they’re all calling Dave too, maybe they’ll have more luck with him. People, this is not a big deal; it’ll go one way or another, nobody in the Atom community will care that much, and neither standards organization will lose any sleep; this is the one issue in the history of syndication technology that nobody’s getting very emotional over. Oh yes, the good news: one of the journos was Sean Gallagher from eWeek, and he’s got a pretty good blog; subscribed.
Tim Does Owl for Kiwis
· I subscribe to a feed over at PubSub to see who’s talking about me. Occasionally, it turns up a surprise. I’ve known about this other Mr. B. for some years, and figured it was time I gave him a hand because the poor guy is severely handicapped in getting noticed online. I’ve always loved The Owl and the Pussycat (runcible spoon, anyone?) and I’d take the kid in a flash if we were going to be near Auckland in July. If you are and have a kid to take, do so and post a review.
· I spent some time this week at a meeting of Sun’s Distinguished Engineers; to become a DE you have to go through a lengthy process including peer review. I’m not a DE, I was there to give a speech on Communication, my first outing on that subject. It’s an impressive group; there were lots of technical conversations (on IPv6, process modeling, mobile objects) where I was struggling to understand the basics let alone the details. Anyhow, I’ve already written here that I think people’s faces reflect the language they speak. Along similar lines, as I looked at all these very senior engineers’ faces, I was struck by a particular look in their eyes. I don’t seem to have a good vocabulary to describe it, but “stillness” and “coolness” come to mind. It wasn’t subtle. They are the eyes, I think, of people who listen intensely.
· Sunblogger Hoffie is building an automaton, which is kind of interesting. The design goal is to climb high-voltage towers, which makes it even more interesting. “Because it’s there” I suppose. One can’t help wondering what happens when the automaton reaches the high voltage; just a tasty snack? I hope he’s got his explanations in order for when the anti-terrorism squad wonders why this geek is sending menacing-looking pieces of machinery to assault the infrastructure.
· The estimable Dr. Wood now finds herself to be an occasional blogger; see, I evangelize at home as well as at work. Hmm... this thing’s coming off an old P300 Debian box behind a DSL line in the basement, let’s hope to goodness she doesn’t get slashdotted. Quicktime videos are right out.
4, 11, 11, 14, 39, 40, 42, 42, 48, 73
· Rhythm but no math in that sequence, the ages present at our family gathering. I am blessed—to an extent it’s taken a half-lifetime to appreciate—in being part of an extended family that basically Just Gets Along and is generally free of insane behavior and murderous emnity. So we get together, we hang out, we ate turkey with all the fixings (my minor contribution was the mashed potatoes with green onions for colour). I’d promised the relatives, spread across Canada, a Green Christmas if they came down to Vancouver. Herewith a picture or two. I hope your Christmases were merry, and I hope you were with your families and with agreeable people and with luck both ...
· I note that with the arrival of Dave Orchard, one-third of the TAG is now in blogspace. Dave writes big long pieces (like me) but jams the whole narrative right into the blog, none of this wimpy excerpt/teaser stuff; I’ll have to watch and see how that plays out. He mixes his material up; if what’s on top doesn’t turn your crank, scroll way down.
· Wednesday evening, Lauren and I had a social in the spacious and comfy suite that she gets for chairing the XML conference, and it was great fun. (If you know us and didn’t get invited, sorry, we only decided Wednesday morning and missed seeing a few people). For me, the real thrill was there were several pairs of people at the party who’d known each other for years (electronically) but had never met and were really happy to do so. Put Betty Harvey and David Megginson and Rick Jelliffe and Dare Obasanjo and Jon Udell and Norm Walsh and Sean McGrath and James Clark and Peter Flynn and Eve Maler in a room — the evidence of the wineglasses suggests there were thirty people or so, I just picked those names off the pictures that I took but aren’t good enough for ongoing — put all these people in a room, and you get more than a few of of these You’re David? Wow! moments. I had one of those myself, meeting Dare Obasanjo for the first time. Dare is given to occasional over-the-top flaming and snarling on mailing lists, and he looks kind of menacing too, but turns out to be a friendly, cheerful, and interesting guy.
· Earlier this month at the Foo Camp, I screwed up and I’m still feeling bad about it. I found myself sitting around a fire with one of my truly major influences, and I couldn’t manage to compose even a few feeble words of thanks to someone who made a big difference in my life. This is by way of trying to make up for it a bit ...
Pinker on Brown on Human Universals
· I’m currently reading Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature which, 100 pages in, seems more or less an extended polemic aimed at those who want to ignore or refute or minimize the genetic component of Human Nature. Since I take Pinker very seriously I’ll probably write more about this when I’m finished, but I have to share this list that he talks about and then helpfully includes, of Human Universals, from Donald E. Brown, of whom I know nothing. Brown devised this list in 1989. If there is such a thing as Human Nature, this list is all about it ...
The End of Innocence
· I’m sorry, this has just gone way, way too far. Words written in public become deeds, and some deeds are inexcusable and I see no point in excusing the inexcusable. There are those who may not be able to forgive me for veering over the edge of politeness, but nobody can claim I’m the first to go there, and I just don’t care. (Update: extra fact-finding.) ...
· A few weeks ago, the CSS Zen Garden burst on the design scene and opened a few people’s eyes, including mine. I had lunch today with its author, and he’s an interesting story ...
You Say It’s Your Birthday
· Yep. Here’s how old I am: when I turned 14, my parents got me the new Beatles album, which was the White album; I hadn’t heard any of it, and put it on and the first song was Birthday, whose first lyrics are the title above, a wonderful fast rocker with a glorious blast of teenage noise in the middle. Good birthday present! That record is the one that I’ve maybe listened to more than any other over the years, and it doesn’t seem to wear out. Even if it did inspire Charlie (check some of those links) to carve up beautiful people. Other people in the computer biz that I know about who were born in the same year include (in alphabetical order) Berners-Lee, Gates, Jobs, and Winer. Obviously it was a good time to be born if you were destined to have fun in this neck of the woods. (The day turned out pretty well; added some pix, including a Harry Potter rarity.) ...
Practical Airport Anthropology
· We went to the airport yesterday to pick up our friend Sally, inbound from Australia for a summer vacation partly with us. Which kicked off two largely-unrelated lines of thought that are not quite large enough to deserve their own essays. The big thing is the angle you hold your hips when you hug ...
· I am now not the only TAG member with an ongoing (so to speak) Web presence: Norm Walsh is here. (Hmm, that’s the first
.name URI I’ve ever seen.) Let me see, he runs his personal scheduler through RSS. Good. He wrangles Docbook, only the biggest honkin’ in-production pro-publishing XML vocabulary on the planet, and is documenting the wrangling in real time. People who care about this, care a lot. Best of all, he publishes pictures of flowers. A keeper, I’d say.
The Faces of Asian Women
· This may sound nuts, but I think people's faces reflect the language they speak. Perhaps because of my Pacific Rim base, I find this particularly obvious in the faces of Asian women. A huge number of the people here in Vancouver are of Chinese extraction, resident for periods anywhere between four generations and a few weeks. Being a normally male sort of person, I'm given to looking closely at women's faces. And quite often, when I look, I can tell instantly "she speaks generic North American English" or "she's a recent immigrant and has a heavy accent." ...
· Remarkably few people seem to know of the ongoing (so to speak) online travelogue by Dervala Hanley; the quality of the writing is frequently out there in Bruce Chatwin territory, which is kind of like saying a jazz musician is out there in Miles Davis territory. She is funny more often than Chatwin was ...
· I hopped a taxi to get out of Calgary to the airport; the driver was a friendly fellow. We talked about the (bitterly cold) weather, then about the perils of flying, and he made an offhand remark about terrorism, and my spirit sank. The front seat was an outpost of tribal bigotry ...
Talkin' 'bout My Gender
· Like most parents, we have some shelf-feet full of books on How To Raise Them. I would draw your attention to the following, from Bringing Up a Boy by Eli H. Newberger (ISBN 0-7475-3967-7: Throughout my life I've enjoyed the companionship of boys and men who personify the qualities of masculinity we admire - courage, good humour, flexibility, dependability, sociability, protectiveness of others. Hey, guys, that's us, not bad eh?
Dave and Deanna's Party
· Last night we were at Dave Orchard's birthday party, which was also (this year) Chinese New Year. There were red envelopes, ordered-in Chinese food, Hell Banknotes, and all the trimmings except for lion dancers and fireworks. We had two or three ethnic groups but nobody of a Chinese background, which nobody noticed until later in the evening - that's Vancouver for you ...
By Tim Bray.
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